bill bryson once said there are three things you cannot do in life.
“You can’t beat the phone company, you can’t make a waiter see you until he’s ready to see you, and you can’t go home again.”
and i think that’s true. especially the last one.
i was sitting on a wood bench recently, watching my (almost) two-year-old daughter run across a playground, brown curls flowing in the air behind her, pea-gravel crunching underfoot.
behind me, a baseball field stood silent and awkward. its hair slightly overgrown, the infield unkept. the same ballfield where i learned to play third base.
on the other side of the playground, a river floated slowly by. the same river on which i used to spend lazy summer days floating on large, black inflatable tubes with friends.
the stop sign across the street is where i used to catch the school bus, when i was not all that much older than our little girl, now grinning widely at me from the top of the yellow slide, making sure she has my attention.
it was home, in many ways. but it was then that i realized, in many ways, it was no longer home.
things have been quiet
with the exception of a few intermittent posts–some words on the saturday afternoon when my sister-in-law was struck by the nightmarish news of cancer at just 25 years old, a handful of posts on holy week, and asking what it means to grieve the death of a loved one as a christian–things have been pretty quiet here over the past four years.
as quiet as things have been here, things have been pretty busy in the rest of life over the past four years.
for starters, we left home, work, and community, and went to england. and we had some pretty incredible experiences along the way, while i earned a degree in theology.
in the two months between wrapping up one degree and starting another, we welcomed our first child into the world. a beautiful girl we named emma.
we moved, again, to north carolina–an entirely new country for us, in many ways–where i completed another degree in theology.
along the way, i tried to get a couple books published, and I ended up batting .500 (more on that later).
then, after another round of ‘goodbyes,’ we came home. sort of.
trying to wear someone else’s shoes
a lot has changed since we left, it seems. as much about home as about us.
some buildings have come down. others have gone up.
my grandmother’s 30-plus year prayers have come true: we finally won a superbowl.
new relationships have been formed. others have died away with time and distance.
some new people have come since we’ve been gone. others have left.
we’ve come, and we’ve gone. and we’re not the same for it.
and no matter how much i know, deep down, that this place is the place we used to call “home,” there’s still much about it that feels as though i’m trying to wear someone else’s worn-in shoes.
“you can’t go home again,” bryson wrote. and it would seem he was right.
this isn’t home. not exactly. but we’re here, we’re back, and we’re looking forward to doing life again from here.
picking up the pen again
i am looking forward to picking up the pen and beginning again. and there are a few things i’ve thinking about, things i’d love to spend some time writing on. i’m hoping to do that here, as well as pitch a few of them elsewhere.
here are some of the things i’ve been chewing on during my early morning jogs, with the smell of fresh-picked raspberries floating through the air, and the snowcapped mountains framing the horizon.
i’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about calling for the last couple years.
i’m thrilled to announce that i have a memoir being published on the topic of calling–and, specifically, what it looked like in our life when we set out to pursue a calling.
it’s titled, Called: My Journey to C.S. Lewis’s House and Back Again, and it’s due out in february of 2015 (leafwood publishers). i’m looking forward to sharing the cover artwork very soon.
i’ve had the chance to give a few talks on the topic of calling over the past year or two, and i’m looking forward to doing more of that as things wind up for the book release.
in addition to telling our story of what it was like to leave everything and set out in pursuit of what we believed to be God’s call on my life, more and more, i’ve begun to wonder whether we even know what we mean when we use the word “calling.”
especially as christians.
whatever it means to be called, i am more and more certain that it doesn’t merely mean following our dreams, putting our talents to use, or even simply responding to the needs of those around us.
i think it means something totally different than that, and i’m looking forward to spending more time writing about this in the near future.
life & death
i was talking with a friend before we left north carolina–a friend who had just found out that he and his wife were not going to give birth to their second child after all–and we were talking about the fact that, in the face of death and the messiness of grief, silence really is the worst response.
and yet, it’s also one of the most common responses to grief.
and i think one of the main reasons we so often respond to death with silence is because we don’t know what to do with death.
when what was supposed to be the joy of preparing to welcome a new family member into the world turns out to be a painful surgery in a matter of just a few days; when the phone call comes on saturday saying the test results came back and it looks like cancer; when the brain tumor shows up at 50 and you’re trying to put back the pieces of your life after your mom, wife, neighbor is no longer there, we are left speechless.
we don’t know what to do with death. and i have a theory about why i think this is.
i think one of the reasons we don’t know what to do with death, at least among many Christians, is because we skip right over Jesus’ death. and the reason we skip over Jesus’ death is because of our joyous expectation of the Easter Resurrection.
and i think that’s a massive problem, for which all of us pay the price.
anyways, that’s my theory. i need to flesh it out a bit–sorry, unintended pun. i’m looking forward to doing so soon.
commodification of everything
i recently heard about a theologian who was asked at a conference what he’s trying to prevent in his work. his response? “the commodification of everything.”
for some reason, i cannot get my mind off of that statement.
specifically, i’ve been thinking about the fact that the commodification of everything is the natural, logical result of capitalism.
now, i’m not about to sign up for marxism (is that still a thing?), but i do think there are some important questions to ask when everything is available for purchase.
for one thing, i’ve been thinking about the fact that, in our visual-centric society, to be seen is already to be commodified (think hipster clothing for sale at target, reality tv, artists who begin their careers on youtube, etc.). i’ve been using the term ‘ocular commodification’ for this idea. but i have much more thinking to do here.
anyway, this idea is related to two other things i’d like to write about.
raising a daughter
i’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to raise a young girl who is already praised for her beauty before her second birthday in a culture that commodifies bodies (especially physically beautiful bodies), while also, simultaneously, giving girls impossible models for what their bodies should look like, making them feel hopelessly, endlessly inadequate.
(i think boys run into the same issues, of course. it’s just that i only have a daughter at the moment, and so that’s what i’ve been thinking about).
i’m not exactly sure what this means for raising our daughter, but i think a lot of it will have to do with talking about the kind of stories we are told.
about how some stories lead to life, and some stories lead to the kind of life that is better described as death. and about how those stories that try to tell us that our bodies are something that can be purchased, or used to make us feel hopelessly inadequate, are deadly stories.
there’s much more to say here, of course, and i’m looking forward to doing so soon.
with my 30th birthday looming just around the corner, on the other side of graduate studies, and still seeking clarity on what my next professional role will be, i’ve been thinking a lot about identity lately.
specifically, i’ve been thinking about the fact that i hate how identity-less i feel when i don’t have a seminar paper deadline, or when i am not entering my time card at the end of another work week.
i’ve been thinking about how much my identity is tied up into what i’m doing, instead of who i am.
i’ve been thinking about the fact that, in publishing a book that will involve the most important, intimate stories from my life–the kind of stories that have shaped who i am as a person–i have actually, voluntarily, commodified myself.
of course, i am more than my stories. which has left me wanting to think and write more about identity.
the poor & the oppressed
i’ve had the privilege of being involved with a couple organizations whose purposes are to care for the poor in the developing world and come to the aid of victims of human trafficking.
they’re both great causes, of course. but, something i’ve been thinking about lately is the question, why?
why should we care for the poor? why should we care for victims of sexual abuse?
because it’s the right thing to do? that can’t be a good answer.
i think we all assume these are good causes to be involved in–and i absolutely believe both are vitally important causes–but i think the reason why these are important causes matters greatly.
i think i know the answer, i think i know why these are important, but i need to think and write a bit more about it. i’m looking forward to doing that soon.
the living Word
and, of course, all of these questions will involve that question i simply cannot seem to shake, no matter where i am, or what i’m doing:
why does it matter that Jesus is the living, enfleshed Word of God, in Whom God is reconciling the world to Himself?
you can’t go home again
my daughter comes flying out the end of the yellow slide wearing a wide, apple-slice grin and i catch her in my arms.
‘let’s go home and get some lunch, whatta ya think?’ i ask her.
she nods her head and mouths, ‘yeah, yeah, yeah,’ as she does.
on our way back to the house, a 50-something woman i do not recognize smiles and waves to us, as though to say, ‘it’s good to see you again. it’s good to have you home.’
“you can’t go home again,” bryson says. and i think he’s right.
the place called home as well as the home inside each one of us is always changing. always moving.
and as much as i want to fight that with all my being, as much as i want to go back to how things used to be at times, i am beginning to think it might not be such a bad thing that we can’t go home again.
i’m looking forward to picking up the pen and beginning again, here from our new, old home.
as always, thanks for reading.